Brazil United Against NY Times

     Brazil United Against NY Times

    Allies and foes of
    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
    were unanimous in offering their solidarity to the President and in
    attacking the Sunday New York Times report that accused Lula
    of being a little too friendly to beer and other alcoholic beverages.
    Brazil’s Senate should approve a vote of censure against the paper.

    by: Émerson Luís


    For José Alencar, Brazil’s Vice-President, the act was an "ignominy";
    for the Lula administration’s Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, "it
    was offensive to Brazil, to the institution of the Republic’s presidency and
    to President Lula and citizen Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva." The
    opposition leader in the senate was indignant against what he called "an
    offense to the country’s dignity."

    Allies and foes of Lula
    were unanimous in offering their solidarity to the President and in attacking
    the Sunday New York Times report that accused the Brazilian President
    of being a little too friendly to beer, distilled spirits and similar alcoholic

    Written by Larry Rohter
    and entitled "Brazilian Leader’s Tippling Becomes National Concern,"
    the article set the tone of the piece in the first paragraph: "Luiz Inácio
    Lula da Silva has never hidden his fondness for a glass of beer, a shot of
    whiskey or, even better, a slug of cachaça, Brazil’s potent
    sugar-cane liquor. But some of his countrymen have begun wondering if their
    president’s predilection for strong drink is affecting his performance in

    Alencar told reporters,
    "President Lula is an honorable man and all of us Brazilians have to
    fight back. This text is disrespectful to our President." Dirceu, the
    President’s Chief of Staff, announced that he has been talking to Attorney
    General, Álvaro Ribeiro and Justice Minister, Márcio Thomas
    Bastos to decide whether to sue the paper responsible for the attacks against

    "It’s evident that
    we live in a democracy in Brazil and in the United States, and I respect the
    right to freedom of press, but I consider the report offensive to the country,
    to Brazil," said Dirceu adding: I believe that all Brazilian men and
    women have to repudiate that."

    "Lula is a not an
    absent President, he is dedicated to the government’s decisions," commented
    Antonio Palocci, Brazil’s Finance Minister. "Lula is involved in the
    administration and such a report makes no sense." Palocci called the
    New York Times story "very irresponsible." But he didn’t
    seem to believe that the article would influence negatively the Brazilian

    For Planning Minister,
    Guido Mantega, the Times article is part of a bigger picture or conspiracy:
    "The New York Times is held in high regard and wouldn’t slander
    the President without a broader purpose. Behind all of this there’s the intention
    of weakening President Lula, who gave the country a new international position."

    José Genoíno,
    the President of PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores—Workers’ Party), the same
    party of Lula, called the Times text "bad journalism mixed to
    slander and defamation in a political attempt to go back to old times when
    prejudiced and unfounded accusations against Lula were the norm." Genoíno
    called his colleagues in Congress to the fight against the New York paper:
    "We offer our solidarity to companion Lula and we have to take the necessary
    measures in court. I believe that the Presidency of the Republic was assailed,
    but if it becomes necessary, the PT will also take measures."

    Vote of Censure

    The President of the Senate,
    José Sarney, from the allied party PMDB (Partido do Movimento Democrático
    Brasileiro—Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement) revealed that
    he was in favor of a vote of censure to be taken against the NY Times,
    this Tuesday. The proposal to censor the Times was made by Ideli Salvati,
    the PT’s leader in the Senate. Most of the Senate debate on Monday was related
    to the American paper’s polemic article.

    The opposition leader
    in the senate, Arthur Virgílio, from the PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia
    Brasileira—Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy), talked about the
    intention of his party to take the high ground despite their determination
    to continue o "hitting hard" the administration:

    "In this episode,
    however, President Lula can be sure that our party is not going to hit low
    or use personal attacks. I am not going to help to tarnish the President’s
    image or to add to his undoing." Virgílio classified the article
    as an "offense to the country’s dignity".

    In São Paulo, State
    governor Geraldo Alckmin, also from the PSDB, offered his solidarity to the
    President: "The piece is unfair and malicious and the federal government
    is entirely right in its indignation."

    Professor Luizinho, the
    government’s leader in the House, went for the attack mentioning the international
    scandal that became the discovery that the New York Times reporter
    Jayson Blair was fabricating his stories. Luizinho said that the American
    newspaper should have learned a lesson from that episode and confessed that
    he was mystified by the idea conveyed by the newspaper that "there is
    a climate of national commotion due to the President’s behavior."

    "What’s baffling
    is that the reporter knows the role that the President has in Latin America,
    he knows about the opening of the markets with the Arab countries, and China
    and Russia, he knows about the negotiations in the FTAA and the Mercosur.
    Maybe that’s the problem. Why so much hate, so much rancor and prejudice in
    so few lines?"

    Another PT Representative,
    Arlindo Chinaglia, called reporter Larry Rohter irresponsible: "He assumed
    the role of spokesperson for a coup movement, but here in Brazil we have an
    established democracy. I wonder whether he is defending some economic interest."

    Writing in the Folha
    de S. Paulo, Gilberto Dimenstein, veteran columnist for that daily, commented
    that the government was right in getting upset at the Times story,
    but added. "Where there’s smoke there’s fire." Dimenstein observed
    that the subject Lula and drinking is nothing new and it has been talked about
    frequently among the Brazilian political and economic elite.

    "He frequently appears
    holding a glass," wrote the journalist , "which would not mean anything
    at all if it weren’t for the fact that he had in the past a more intense familiarity
    with alcohol.

    "It also doesn’t
    help that he has been seen in private meetings ingesting alcohol in an amount
    that might bring about innuendoes. The damage is done. From now on, Lula will
    have to take better care of his image, being aware that when an individual
    is President, appearances and words have special weight."

    Official Reaction

    The official response
    from the Brazilian government was swift. On Sunday, the same day that the
    New York Times article appeared, Lula’s spokesman, André Singer,
    released a note calling the Times report "an example of the worst
    possible kind of yellow journalism."

    The note went on to say:
    "We were surprised to see this type of thing in The New York Times;
    it has no factual basis and infringes upon the most elementary norms of journalistic

    The Brazilian ambassador
    in Washington has received instructions to contact the newspaper and transmit
    the Brazilian government’s indignation and surprise at allowing such gratuitous
    insults to be directed at the President of Brazil.

    President Lula exercises
    the duties of his office with total responsibility and dedication. His work
    day is more than 12 hours long, which is easy to prove just by talking to
    anyone who works with him, including journalists who work at the Palácio
    do Planalto."

    The note hinted at the
    end that the Brazilian government was considering legal action against the
    paper: "The Brazilian government is studying legal recourse to defend
    the honor of the president of Brazil and the country’s image abroad."

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